Employment Essay Format - Professor William Allan Kritsonis

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Dr. William Allan Kritsonis, School Law - Educaitonal Law & Policies - Personnel Issues and the Law - Employment - Litigation - Court Cases - Due Process - Legal Issues and Trends - Discrimination

Dr. William Allan Kritsonis, School Law - Educaitonal Law & Policies - Personnel Issues and the Law - Employment - Litigation - Court Cases - Due Process - Legal Issues and Trends - Discrimination

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  • 1. PRAIRIE VIEW A&M UNIVERSITY EDUCATIONAL LAW & POLICY EDUL 7213 William Allan Kritsonis, PhD Professor PhD Program in Educational Leadership Prairie View A&M University – The Texas A&M University System EMPLOYMENT
  • 2. Arthur L. Petterway EMPLOYMENT INTRODUCTION When we speak of employment, we find that the public school system is the largest employer in the state of Texas. The full scope of the employment relationship examines the constitutional concept of due process of law, the different employment arrangements that are available to public schools in Texas, the hiring and firing process, and the legal issues that arise in that context (Walsh, Kemerer, and Maniotis, 2005). For the purpose of this report, we will present ten cases as they relate to the different employment arrangements found in public education. The findings are intended to be informative and beneficial in terms of “at-will employees”, “Non-Chapter 21 Contracts”, “probationary contracts”, “term contracts”, “continuing contracts”, and “third-party independent contractor.” Case One United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. Emilio MONTEZ, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. SOUTH ANTONIO INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant- Appellee No. 87 – 5501 LITIGANTS Plaintiffs-Appellants: Emilio Montez, et. al Defendant-Appellee: SOUTH San Antonio INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT BACKGROUND In 1979 Montez was hired to teach in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program. Montez has never been certified as a teacher by the responsible authorities of the State of Texas. His initial employment was validated on October 15, 1979 when the Texas Education Agency issued him an Emergency Teaching Permit. That permit expired on August 31, 1980 and was never reissued. Montez continued to work until September 1985 when he was notified of the 2
  • 3. Arthur L. Petterway anticipated termination of his employment. After two hearings before the school district authorities, Montez was discharged at the end of the 1985-86 school year. FACTS Emilio Montez appeals a summary judgment rejecting his claims under the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments and 42 U.S.C. series 1983. He alleges wrongful termination by the SAN ANTONIO ISD of his employment as an instructor in the JROTC program. The district court found no genuine issue of material fact and concluded that Montez had not been denied due process as relates to a claimed property interest. The United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, at San Antonio, H. F. Garcia, J., granted summary judgment against instructor. Instructor appealed. DECISION In order to establish due process deprivation of property interest under the Fourteenth Amendment, plaintiff must establish that he had “legitimate claim of entitlement” to that interest. Montez who was hired to teach in the JROTC program was employed under “continuing contracts” after his emergency teaching permit expired. When he was subsequently discharged by the school district, it was determined that he was not “teacher”, for purposes of Texas “tenure law” granting “teachers” legitimate claim of entitlement to, and protection under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The instructor never held required permanent teaching certificate, and any contract purporting to give instructor more than that allowed by Texas law was beyond the power of the school district and could not bestow property interest on instructor. Montez contends that, even if his contracts were not valid, the circumstances surrounding his employment gave him property interest in his job because he relied on the words “continuing contract”, and he was never notified of the certificate requirement. This contention overlooks the Hornbook rubric that knowledge of the law is presumed. Montez asserts estoppel, but that claim also founders. Estoppel cannot be used to create a contract right where none exists. Further, estoppel may be asserted only rarely against a governmental entity. 3
  • 4. Arthur L. Petterway Nor may Montez advance a claim of deprivation of a liberty interest. He had two hearings before the school authorities prior to his termination. Liberty interests are not implicated. DICTA The Court of Appeals, Politz, Circuit Judge, held that: (1) instructor was not “teacher” for purposes of Texas tenure law granting “teachers” Fourteenth Amendment interest in their jobs; (2) instructor failed to demonstrate facts sufficient to establish that circumstances surrounding his employment gave him “property” interest in his job; (3) instructor could not prevail on estoppel theory; and (4) instructor’s liberty interests were not implicated. IMPLICATIONS Montez’s brief pointedly focuses on what appears to be a gap in the Texas Education Code’s coverage as respects the treatment accorded JROTC instructors. Montez’s complaints should be addressed to the Texas legislature. It is not cognizable as a constitutional or civil rights claim in this forum. Case Two LITIGANTS United States District Court, N. D. Texas, Dallas Division. Chris BARBRE (Plaintiff) V. GARLAND INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, the Board of Trustees of the Garland Independent School District, Doug Butler, Charles Cooper, Ronnie Rogers, R. E. Dodson, Harry Hill, Jim Kennedy and Darwin Morris, Eli Douglas, Charles Price and W. E. Peters (Defendants) No. CA 3 – 77 – 0187 – C BACKGROUND The plaintiff, Chris Barbre, a former untenured teacher’s aide at Garland Independent School District, brings her main claim under 42 U.S.C. series 1983, and under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, alleging that her employment was not renewed because of her protected First Amendment speech. The plaintiff also brings procedural due process claims under the Fifth and Fourteenth 4
  • 5. Arthur L. Petterway Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, and under 42 U.S.C. series 1981. The individual defendants, all of them officials of the Garland Independent School District, are sued individually and in their official capacities. The plaintiff seeks reinstatement, back wages, actual and exemplary damages and attorney’s fees and costs. In addition, the plaintiff seeks to have “all references to her alleged ‘disloyalty’, termination and non-renewal,” expunged from her employment records. FACTS Former untenured teacher’s aide’s speech at school board meeting was not protected by First Amendment, where nature of aide’s communications related to immediate terms and conditions of her employment, and only tangentially to matters of public concern, aide’s communications raised questions of maintaining either discipline by immediate superiors or harmony among co-workers, aide’s relationship with superior was such that certain forms of public criticism of him by her would seriously undermine effectiveness of working relationship between them, aide’s speech impeded proper performance of her daily duties, and aide could have achieved her purposes in less disruptive ways. DECISION Contention of former teacher’s aide that she was terminated without procedural due process provided no basis for relief. There was no basis to hold that there was any property interest in aide’s employment contract, so as to entitle her to procedural safeguards, because she did not have any type of tenure. Reasons for termination or non-renewal of a public employee that are not made public cannot form basis of claim that a due process “liberty” interest has been impaired, so as to entitle public employee to procedural safeguards. A public employee does not have a claim under Fourteenth Amendment denial of a hearing on his non-renewal, when disclosure of his employment file would amount to stigmatization, unless he asserts that report in files is substantially false and thus deprives him of protected liberty interest. After considering all the evidence presented at trial, the pleadings, briefs and oral argument of counsel, the Court concludes that plaintiff 5
  • 6. Arthur L. Petterway fails to establish any violation of the U.S. Constitution or federal statutory law by the School District or its officials. The First Amendment claim, although plausible, does not succeed on the facts of this case, nor on applicable law. Therefore, the Court must deny plaintiff all requested relief. DICTA The District Court, William M. Taylor, J., held that: (1) under circumstances, aide’s speech at school board meeting was not protected by First Amendment, and (2) even if aide’s speech before and during school board meeting was protected by First Amendment, and even though such speech was a motivating factor in her non- renewal, her insubordination, subsequent to board meeting, was a valid and separate explanation for her non-renewal apart from any of her prior expressions. IMPLICATIONS The First Amendment requires striking a balance between interests of teacher, as a citizen, in commenting upon matters of public concern and interest of state, as an employer, in promoting efficiency of public services it performs through its employees. Unless such balance favors state, it should not be permitted to punish a teacher for truthful speech, or for false speech made without malice or reckless disregard of truth. Case Three LITIGANTS United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. James W. Russell, Jr., Plaintiff-Appellant v. EL PASO INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT et al., Defendants-Appellees. No. 76-1836 BACKGROUND A teacher, the plaintiff, whose employment contract was not renewed, filed this action alleging infringement of constitutionally protected rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and 42 U.S.C. series 1983 (1970). The 6
  • 7. Arthur L. Petterway district court dismissed the case on the pleadings because of the plaintiff’s failure (1) to exhaust his administrative remedies under Texas state law, and (2) to raise a substantial federal question. The United States District Court for the Western District of Texas at El Paso, William S. Sessions, J., dismissed the case on the pleadings and teacher appealed. FACTS The parties to this appeal differ as to what is the applicable Texas law governing appellant’s employment contract with the El Paso District. Under Section 13.104 of the Texas Education Code (1972), the school board’s decision not to renew Russell’s contract would be “final and nonappealable.” Russell contends that this is the applicable statute. For that to be the case, however, it must be shown that the school board in question had adopted the tenure plan contained in Chapter 13 of the Education Code. The contract in question was executed on August 24, 1973. It was not until December 13, 1973 that the Board of Trustees of the School District adopted the tenure plan. We see no reason to apply retroactively the terms of the tenure plan to an employment contract already in existence. With regard to the substantiality of the federal question presented by Russell, it is important to note that the contract under which he was employed was for one year. More importantly, this was his first year of employment with the school district. Similarly, there was no impermissible denial of a liberty interest. “Where a person’s good name, reputation, honor or integrity, is at stake because of what the government is doing to him, notice and an opportunity to be heard are essential.” Russell requested, and was given a full and fair hearing on this matter. DECISION Teacher employed for one year did not have a reasonable expectation of reemployment after the first year of employment. The teacher whose employment contract was not renewed and who requested and was given a full and fair hearing sustained no impermissible denial of liberty interest. DICTA The Court of Appeals, Gewin, Circuit Judge, held that terms of tenure plan adopted subsequent to execution of teacher’s contract 7
  • 8. Arthur L. Petterway would not be applied retroactively and adoption of the plan did not render applicable section of Education Code under which board’s decision not to renew teacher’s contract would be final and nonappealable. Teacher was required to exhaust administrative remedies; that teacher employed for one year had no reasonable expectation of reemployment; and that there was no impermissible denial of liberty interest. IMPLICATIONS The federal court is not the appropriate forum in which to review the multitude of personnel decisions that are made daily by public agencies. We must accept the harsh fact that numerous individual mistakes are inevitable in the day-to-day administration of our affairs. The United States Constitution cannot be feasibly construed to require federal judicial review for every such error. In the absence of any claim that the public employer was motivated by a desire to curtail or to penalize the exercise of an employee’s constitutionally protected rights, we must presume that official action was regular, and, if erroneous, can best be corrected in other ways. The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is not a guarantee against incorrect or ill-advised personnel decisions. Case Four LITIGANTS Court of Civil Appeals of Texas, Corpus Christi. Reynaldo RUIZ, Appellant, v. The STATE of Texas, Appellee No. 1102 BACKGROUND Reynaldo Ruiz was elected Justice of the Peace for Precinct 3, Place 2 in Hidalgo County, Texas, for a second term in November 1974 and has been discharging his duties as Justice of Peace since January 1, 1975. Ruiz has also been employed in a teaching capacity as ‘Coordinator of the Cooperative Part Time Training Program’ for the La Joya Independent School District, a job he has held since 1967. In September of 1975, the Hidalgo County Auditor and Treasurer, upon advice of the County Criminal District Attorney, began withholding the appellant’s pay checks for his services as Justice of Peace. 8
  • 9. Arthur L. Petterway FACTS Appeal was taken from an order of the 92nd District Court, Hidalgo County, Paul A. Martineau, J., declaring that the appellant was not qualified to be paid compensation as a justice of the peace while he also maintained employment as a public school teacher. DECISION Provision of Constitution prohibiting any person from holding more than one office of emolument specifically excepts justice of peace from dual emolument prohibitions, and teacher was an employee rather than an “officer”; thus, person employed in teaching capacity for independent school district and who also served as elected justice of peace was eligible to receive compensation for both positions. DICTA The Court of Civil Appeals, Nye, C. J., held that the constitutional provision prohibiting persons from holding more than one office of emolument specifically excepted from its prohibitions the office of the justice of the peace; and that the separation of powers provision of the Constitution did not prevent appellant from receiving a salary and serving as both a public school teacher and a justice of the peace. Reversed and rendered. IMPLICATIONS Separation of powers provision of the State Constitution did not prevent public school teacher from also serving and receiving salary as justice of peace where such person, as teacher, was not exercising sovereign powers of State, and where there was no evidence that his activities and duties as public school teacher interfered in any way with his constitutional duties as justice of peace. 9
  • 10. Arthur L. Petterway Case Five LITIGANTS IN THE SUPREME COURT OF TEXAS No. 01- 0557 Midland Judicial District Community Supervision and Corrections Department, Petitioner v. Ruthie Ann Jones, Respondent On Petition for Review from the Court of Appeals for the Eight District of Texas BACKGROUND On July 30, 1993, the Midland Judicial District Community Supervision and Corrections Department (CSCD) informed Ruthie Ann Jones that she had been hired as a Pretrial Services Administrative Technician III. At that time she was given a memorandum that stated that she would start work on August 9, 1993. The memorandum also discussed her salary. She would receive a starting monthly gross pay of $1,558.00 in August; $14 would be added to her pay starting 1/1/94; another $13 increase effective 4/1/94; and she would have a monthly gross salary on 9/1/94. The salary figures were contingent upon her future performance evaluations and available county funding. FACTS In December 1993, Jones’ position was eliminated due to budget constraints. Jones filed suit against the CSCD, alleging wrongful termination and breach of employment contract. The trial court granted CSCD’s motion for summary judgment on the ground that Jones was an at-will employee. The court of appeals held that Jones’ employment was for a fixed term, reversed the trial court’s summary judgment, and remanded the case for trial. DECISION For well over a century, the general rule in this State, as in most jurisdictions, has been that absent a specific agreement to the contrary, 10
  • 11. Arthur L. Petterway employment may be terminated by the employer or the employee for good cause, bad cause or no cause at all. The general statements indicating that Jones’ salary increases were contingent on “future performance evaluations and available county funding” do not indicate CSCD’s intent to be bound not to terminate her employment except under clearly specified circumstances. The court of appeals erred in concluding that the memo constituted a contract of employment for one year. The written form of CSCD’s general statements does not change the fact that they do not unequivocally indicate the required intent. DICTA “The issue in this case is whether the respondent’s employment with the petitioner was for a fixed term or at-will. Because we conclude that there was no fixed term of employment, we reverse the courts of appeal’s judgment and render judgment that the employee take nothing by her claims against the employer. IMPLICATIONS When a contract is made by the employer and the employee, the terms of employment have to be specific and clear and may not be subject to other interpretations in the future by either party. Case Six LITIGANTS United States Court of Appeals, Eight Circuit. Frances FISHER, Appellee v. James SNYDER et al., Appellants BACKGROUND Mrs. Fisher, a middle-aged divorcee, was employed at the high school in Tyron, Nebraska from 1970 to 1972. Her married son, then 26 years old, lived and taught in the neighboring town of Stapleton, Nebraska. Mrs. Fisher lived alone in a one-bedroom apartment. On several occasions, young ladies, married couples, and young men who were friends of her son, visited Tyron. Because hotel and motel accommodations were generally sparse and unavailable in Tyron, Mrs. Fisher followed the advice of the secretary of the school board and 11
  • 12. Arthur L. Petterway allowed these guests to stay overnight at her apartment. Cliff Rowan, age 26, was a particularly frequent visitor. Rowan’s parents lived in California. He therefore, regularly visited Mrs. Fisher during his school vacation and at other times, and she referred to him as her second son. In the spring of 1972, Rowan spent about a week in Tyron visiting school classes as a means of fulfilling certain of his college requirements. Mrs. Fisher made arrangements with school administrators for this visitation and it was reported in the local newspaper. Following Rowan’s visit, the school board notified Mrs. Fisher that her contract would not be renewed at the end of 1972 school year. At her request, pursuant to provisions of Nebraska law, the board afforded Mrs. Fisher a hearing relating to the notice of dismissal. Civil right action by school teacher whose contract was terminated because of alleged conduct unbecoming a teacher. The United States District Court for the District of Nebraska, Warren K. Urbom, Chief Judge, ordered reinstatement, and the board members appealed. FACTS Nebraska by statute requires that notice and a hearing be given non- tenured teachers who are to be terminated. The appellees concede that the school board, in dismissing Fisher, complied with the statute, and its judgment, therefore, must be afforded judicial deference “so long as the board does not act unreasonably, arbitrarily, capriciously or unlawfully.” However, a high school teacher may successfully argue that his dismissal was arbitrary and capricious if he can prove that each of the stated reasons (underlying his dismissal) is trivial, or is unrelated to the educational process or to working relationships within the educational institution or is wholly unsupported by a basis in fact. Thus, while a school board may legitimately inquire into the character and integrity of its teachers, it must be certain that it does not arbitrarily or capriciously dismiss a teacher based on unsupported conclusions drawn from such inquiries. DECISION That middle-aged divorced high school teacher, who inquired of school board’s secretary and was advised to keep guests in her one bedroom apartment because other accommodations were limited, had overnight guests did not provide basis in fact for inference by school board of rural Nebraska county district that there was strong potential for sexual misconduct. Thus, inference that teacher’s activity was social misbehavior not conducive to maintenance of integrity of school system 12
  • 13. Arthur L. Petterway was arbitrary and capricious and was an impermissible reason for terminating employment. DICTA The Court of Appeals, Bright, Circuit Judge, held that fact that middle-aged divorced high school teacher, who inquired of school board’s secretary and was advised to keep guests in her one-bedroom apartment because other accommodations were limited, had overnight guests did not provide basis in fact for inference by school board of rural Nebraska county district that there was strong potential for sexual misconduct. Thus, board’s inference that teacher’s activity was social misbehavior not conducive to maintenance of integrity of public school system was arbitrary and capricious and was an impermissible reason for terminating employment. Judgment affirmed. IMPLICATIONS High school teacher’s dismissal is arbitrary and capricious if each of stated reasons underlying dismissal is trivial, or is unrelated to educational process or to working relationships within educational institution or is wholly unsupported by a basis in fact. Though school board may legitimately inquire into character and integrity of its teachers, it may not arbitrarily or capriciously dismiss teacher based on unsupported conclusions drawn from such inquiries. Case Seven LITIGANTS BOARD OF REGENTS OF STATE COLLEGES ET AL. - Appellant v. David ROTH - Appellee SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES 408 U.S. 564 (1972) BACKGROUND In 1968, David Roth was hired for his first teaching job as assistant professor of political science at Wisconsin State University-Oshkosh. He was hired for a fixed term of one academic year. The notice of his faculty appointment specified that his employment would begin on September 1, 13
  • 14. Arthur L. Petterway 1968, and would end on June 30, 1969. Roth completed that term. But he was informed that he would not be rehired for the next academic year. FACTS David Roth had no tenure rights to continued employment. Under Wisconsin statutory law a state university teacher can acquire tenure as “permanent” employee only after four years of year-to-year employment. Having acquired tenure, a teacher is entitled to continued employment “during efficiency and good behavior.” A relatively new teacher without tenure, however, is under Wisconsin law entitled to nothing beyond his one-year appointment. There are no statutory or administrative standards defining eligibility for reemployment. State law thus clearly leaves the decision whether to rehire a non-tenured teacher for another year to the unfettered discretion of university officials. Roth filed suit in court. He alleged that he was not rehired because of statements he made against the University’s administration and therefore it violated his right to freedom of speech. He also alleged that his right to procedural due process (Fourteenth Amendment) was violated when the University officials failed to give him reasons not to rehire him. DECISION The District Court granted summary judgment for Roth on the procedural issue, ordering the University officials to provide him with reasons and a hearing. The Court of Appeals, with one judge dissenting, affirmed this partial summary judgment. The only question presented to the Supreme Court at this stage of the case is whether Roth had a constitutional right to a statement of reasons and a hearing on the University’s decision not to rehire him for another year. We hold that he did not. The Fourteenth Amendment does not require opportunity for a hearing prior to the non-renewal of a non-tenured state teacher’s contract, unless he can show that the non-renewal deprived him of an interest in “liberty” or that he had “property” interest in continued employment despite the lack of tenure or a formal contract. Here the non-retention of respondent, absent any charges against him or stigma or disability foreclosing other employment, is not tantamount to a deprivation of “liberty,” and the terms of respondent’s employment accorded him no “property” interest protected by procedural due process. The courts below therefore erred in granting summary judgment for the respondent on the procedural due process issue. 14
  • 15. Arthur L. Petterway DICTA “The only question presented to us at this stage in the case is whether the respondent had a constitutional right to a statement of reasons and a hearing on the University’s decision not to rehire him for another year. We hold that he did not.” “Our analysis of the respondent’s constitutional rights in this case in no way indicates a view that an opportunity for a hearing or a statement of reasons for non-retention would, or would not, be appropriate or wise in public colleges and universities. For it is a written Constitution that we apply. Our role is confined to interpretation of that Constitution.” “We must conclude that the summary judgment for the respondent should not have been granted, since the respondent has not shown that he was deprived of liberty or property protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. The judgment of the Court of Appeals, accordingly, is reversed and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.” IMPLICATIONS A contract is a property only during the term. In this case, Roth did not have a property right beyond its term. Due process is required during the contract or when the contract becomes the property of the employee. Case Eight LITIGANTS United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. John M. DENNIS, Plaintiff-Appellee v. S & S CONSOLIDATED RURAL HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT et al., Defendants-Appellants No. 76 – 3803 BACKGROUND Suit was brought by the non-tenured public school teacher alleging that manner in which school decided not to renew his contract deprived him of liberty and property without due process in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas at Sherman, William Wayne Justice, J., found that 15
  • 16. Arthur L. Petterway allegations of a drinking problem subjected teacher to “badge of infamy” which violated his liberty interests and ordered administrative hearing, and appeal was taken. In this appeal, S & S contends that the district court erred in holding that the actions of the school board violated any protected liberty interest. Significantly, S & S has not argued that either the March or the June, 1974, hearings afforded Dennis procedural due process, assuming the existence of a protected liberty interest. Neither party challenges the district court’s holding that Dennis had no property interest in continued employment with S & S. FACTS Appellee John M. Dennis was hired by the Board of Trustees of the Sadler & Southmayd Consolidated Rural High School District (S&S) as a science teacher and high school principal for the 1968-1969 school year. Each year thereafter, through the 1972-1973 school year, S & S voted to renew Dennis’ contract. At the regular school board meeting in February, 1974, however, S & S voted not to renew the one year contract under which Dennis was employed. Although Dennis was given no advance notice of the Board’s February action or the reasons for it, he had previously been involved in several disputes with S & S concerning student discipline. In response to Dennis’ request, the S & S Board of Trustees met publicly in March, 1974, to discuss the non-renewal of Dennis’ contract. Prior to this meeting, Dennis was not given a list of charges against him, the reasons for his non-renewal, or the names of the persons who had made charges against him. At the meeting, the only reason for non-renewal given by the Board as a body was that the action was in “the best interest of the school.” However, individual board members cited their reasons for not renewing Dennis’ contract: “neglected his duties”; “was too inefficient to continue in his position”; had “a drinking problem.” Dennis denied all allegations and later demanded a hearing before the Board in the hopes of clearing his name. The Board granted Dennis a hearing, which was held in public on June 3, 1974 and at which substantially the same allegations were made against Dennis as at the March meeting. DECISION The Court of Appeals, Simpson, Circuit Judge, held that: (1) teacher, who had no property interest in renewal of his contract, was nevertheless entitled to Fourteenth Amendment due process when school board subjected him to badge of infamy in course of refusing to renew his contract, but (2) teacher was only entitled to opportunity to “clear his 16
  • 17. Arthur L. Petterway name” and was not entitled to retention on school payroll or to back pay since his right to due process did not encompass right to continued employment. Affirmed in part, reversed in part. DICTA The critical issue raised by this appeal is whether a non-tenured public school teacher with no property interest in the renewal of his teaching contract is entitled to Fourteenth Amendment due process when the school board subjects him to a badge of infamy in the course of refusing to renew his contract. We hold that he is. IMPLICATIONS Where state has conferred right upon certain citizens, it may not alter or extinguish that right without due process; similarly, when government employs an individual, it may not terminate relationship in manner which might seriously damage individual’s standing and associations in his community or foreclose his freedom to take advantage of other employment opportunities without affording him a due process hearing at which he can make a fair fight to clear his name. Case Nine LITIGANTS Supreme Court of Texas. Gary GROUNDS, Petitioner, v. TOLAR INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, Respondent BACKGROUND Gary Grounds, a teacher and a head football coach with a losing record was fired by the Tolar Independent School District. He brought suit against the District for breach of contract and for an alleged violation of his civil rights. After lengthy litigation, the District recognized that it mistakenly failed to give him timely notice and a hearing before he was fired. After settling the breach of contract suit, the coach decided to litigate the tort action. The trial court found “zero” damages on the tort 17
  • 18. Arthur L. Petterway action and rendered judgment in favor of the District. The Court of Appeals affirmed. FACTS Petitioner, Gary Grounds, was a teacher and a coach for the Tolar Independent School District (the District) during the 1983-84 school year. In February of 1984, the District notified Grounds that his one-year teaching contract would not be renewed. Grounds’ requests for an explanation of the nonrenewal and for a hearing were denied. Grounds appealed to the Commissioner of Education (the Commissioner) who ordered the District to renew Grounds’ contract for the 1984-85 school year. The District declined to either abide by or appeal the Commissioner’s order. Grounds then sued the District, alleging both breach of his employment contract and violation of his right to procedural due process. Grounds claimed that the due process violation arose not from the District’s failure to renew his 1983-84 contract, but solely from its refusal to provide him with its reasons for nonrenewal of his contract and a hearing. The parties eventually settled the contract claim, expressly reserving the due process claim for judicial determination, including Grounds’ request for damages and attorneys’ fees. After a bench trial, the district court concluded that even if Grounds established a due process violation, he sustained no damages as a result. The trial court, accordingly, rendered judgment that Grounds take nothing. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court’s judgment but did so because it concluded that the TCNA does not create a property interest in term contract renewal. As a result, the appellate court did not reach Grounds’ complaint that the trial court’s failure to award damages and attorney’s fees was against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence. DECISION Public school teacher whose term contract was not renewed brought action against school district, alleging violation of due process. The 355th District Court, Hood County, Dan B. Grissom, J., held for school district, and teacher appealed. The Court of Appeals, 827 S.W. 2d 10, affirmed and writ of error was sought. The Supreme Court, Cornyn, J., held that school district’s failure to provide reasons for nonrenewal, in violation of term contract Nonrenewal Act, violated teacher’s due process rights. Reversed and remanded. 18
  • 19. Arthur L. Petterway DICTA In this case we consider whether the legislature conferred upon public school teachers in Texas a constitutionally protected property interest by virtue of the Term Contract Nonrenewal Act (TCNA). For the reasons set out below, we hold that the legislature did grant teachers a property interest. We, therefore, reverse the court of appeals’ judgment and remand this case to that court for consideration of points of error relating to damages and attorney’s fees not previously addressed. IMPLICATIONS Term Contract Nonrenewal Act (TCNA) sufficiently limits school district’s discretion not to renew teacher’s contracts to create property interest in term contract renewal entitled to due process protection, and thus school district’s failure to provide reasons for nonrenewal, in violation of Act, violated teacher’s due process rights. Case Ten LITIGANTS Robert Johnson – Petitioner v. HOUSTON INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT - Respondent BACKGROUND AND FACTS Robert Johnson’s continuing contract with Houston Independent School District (HISD) was terminated during the 2000-2001 school year. The reasons for Johnson’s termination were his excessive absences, failure to provide proper lesson plans and grade books. Johnson appealed to the Commissioner of Education. His arguments were that the District’s decision to terminate his contract was not valid because of the lack of substantial evidence. He also argued that the problems regarding his unacceptable lesson plans and grade books could be remediated and the District failed to adopt a standard for excessive absences, when he was referring to his absence on the first day of school without proper notice or excuse. Ample time was given to the petitioner to correct and improve his grading and lesson plans. Because this time frame was given to him, there was no right to remediation, which raised the level of good cause. 19
  • 20. Arthur L. Petterway The Commissioner defined excessive absences as “those absences for which leave under federal and state law or district policy is not properly invoked” which was constituted as good cause for his termination. DECISION Petitioner’s appeal is denied. DICTA . “Good cause exists for the termination of Petitioner’s continuing contract. Petitioner’s appeal should be denied.” IMPLICATIONS When a teacher is given a warning to correct a problem, that teacher needs to follow up on it in order to make it evident that effort is being made to improve. 20